Excerpt from “Personal Recollections of Sir Richard Francis Burton
- Published: Thursday, 24 June 2021 15:11
Excerpt from “Personal Recollections of Sir Richard Francis Burton, K.C.M.G., F.R.S., F.R.G.S.”
(Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5 [November 1892], pp. 572–574)
A. L. Rawson
Sir Francis Richard Burton (1821-1890)
[The following is an excerpt that appeared in Theosophical History XVIII, no. 3-4 (July-October 2016): 190–94. It includes a brief episode in Madame Blavatsky’s early life wherein Rawson and Sir Richard Burton meet a “pretty young (grass) widow,” i.e., a “married woman whose husband is absent from her” (OED). The event took place in Egypt, between the latter part of 1852—following Rawson’s release from jail—and May 1853—when Burton left Cairo for Mecca. In an email dated December 31, 2016, Mr. Deveney remarks:
We know two facts here: Rawson got out of jail in New Jersey in mid-1852 (June) and Burton left Cairo for Mecca in May 1853. So, this little snippet, if it occurred, took place in that period. It’s funny that Rawson insists that he had by the time he encountered Burton in Cairo already been to Mecca—where he learned H.P.B. had preceded him. He was certainly a busy beaver and careful to one-up Burton.
In reading through all of Rawson’s pieces on H.P.B. it’s hard to determine what he actually thought about her and what he was trying to portray her as. He certainly was under no illusions about her or her “powers”, but he seems at great pains to try not to utterly call her, flat-out, a phony. He also was very careful to show that, whatever she was, he was greater!
Rawson’s piece is very disjointed and reads like some editor cut a lot out: H.P.B. just appears, without introduction, and there are loose ends everywhere: who was her “Russian friend” and was it a man or woman? Was she in the group that went around Cairo after the séances at Shepheard’s Hotel? The visit to the snake charmer is obviously the same as that described in Theosophical Occult Apology, in which Rawson is obviously the young American artist.
This complete article appears on pages 565–576 of Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly.
James Santucci, Editor of Theosophical History]